This voter supports no more phone calls from office seekers

September 14, 2006|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Columnist

Now that the primaries are over and the political riff-raff has been sent packing -- oh, not you, William Donald Schaefer, you're a legend, even if it was time for you to go -- I have a small request to make of the remaining candidates for office as we head into the general elections in November.

And that request is: Don't call me at home, OK?

Don't call if you're running for governor.

Don't call if you're running for Congress.

Don't call even if you're running for dog catcher.

(I don't know, does anyone even run for dog catcher anymore? Driving a van around and impounding stray dogs -- that doesn't sound like a bad job compared to, say, comptroller. Comptroller just sounds kind of ... boring.)

If I sound a little edgy about the phone calls, it's because I received about, oh, 10,000 of them from people running for office in the past couple of weeks.

OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration.

Maybe it's closer to 8,000 phone calls.

But it feels like I heard from just about every politician on the planet.

I heard from Ben Cardin's campaign.

I heard from William Donald Schaefer's campaign. I heard from Janet Owens' campaign and Stu Simms' campaign.

I heard from every campaign except maybe the shameless PR one being waged by that guy who's lobbying to take over for Steve Irwin and be the next Crocodile Hunter.

(Boy, that's a class act, isn't it? Irwin's body isn't even cold yet.)

And after a while, all these phone calls from all these politicians begin to have a cumulative effect.

And that effect is: They start to drive you crazy.

Speaking of which, I now know the answer to the question: What's more annoying than getting a phone call from a politician asking for your support?

Right: getting a phone call with a recorded message from a politician asking for your support.

This clearly has become the newest form of torture directed at the American citizenry by, ahem, public servants.

Over the past few days, I've come home to find at least six recorded messages on my answering machine, each from a politician who swears he or she is the only one with the guts, integrity, vision and blah, blah, blah for the job.

My favorite recorded message was received the other night, right before the primaries.

Let me set the scene for you, OK?

It was about 8 o'clock at my house.

The phone rang.

Springing into action and filled with my usual intellectual curiosity, I checked the caller ID to see if it was someone I could blow off.

But the caller ID screen was blank.

It didn't say "private name, private number" or "unknown name, unknown number" or any of the things it usually says when these weasel politicians call.

So I picked up the phone.

At first, no one answered. So I figured this was the deadly three-second pause that signals a telemarketer on the other end.

Instead, a recorded male voice said: "Jack Sturgill is a Republican. Don't be fooled. Vote Democrat."

And that's basically all it said.

It didn't say which race the caller was referring to.

It didn't say who the caller wanted me to vote for.

It didn't end with the usual: "I'm so-and-so, and I approved this message."

Most of all, it didn't answer the burning question that leapt immediately to mind: Who's Jack Sturgill?

Well, it turned out that Jack Sturgill is a Democrat from Baltimore County running for the House of Delegates in the 7th District.

And when I discovered this, I was tempted to vote for the guy just because one of his opponents called my house and annoyed me with his dirty tactics. (Sturgill won, anyway.)

Speaking of dirty campaign tactics, one of the all-time greatest examples of the genre was related by Frank DeFilippo, longtime political columnist and commentator and the former press secretary to Gov. Marvin Mandel.

This happened back in the mid-'60s, when Julian Lapides and Wally Orlinsky, two young up-and-coming politicians, were locked in a bitter race for the state legislature.

At some point in the race, someone in the Orlinsky campaign came up with a brilliant idea.

Campaign staffers started calling likely voters in their district -- at 2 in the morning.

And when the annoyed, sleepy-voiced voters answered the phone, the Orlinsky campaign staffer would intone: "This is the Julian Lapides campaign. Please support Julian Lapides."

Oooh, that's nasty.

Whoever called about Jack Sturgill -- he might want to remember that one.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

To hear podcasts featuring Kevin Cowherd, go to baltimoresun.com/cowherd.

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